Located at the north-eastern side of Idukki district Munnar is a green delight of gentle rolling hills, quaint little town and villages. At an altitude of 5000 FEET in the Western Ghats, which is right on top of the preferred holiday list in south India.
The stories that trail back a couple of centuries tell that the earliest visitor from the British raj was the Duke of Wellington, who visited Munnar for the first time in 1790 and was fascinated its tranquility and calm.
The original route to Anamellen [The Anamalais mountain ranges further north west of Anaimudi peak in Munnar] was a clearing trail, cutright through the jungle in 1858 by
Congreve and McPherson. The passage led to what is now the Veloine and Valparai estate almost 120 km from Munnar.
In the early 19th centaury, travelers from madurai passing through the villages in Anchand named the majestically rising hills after Kannan Thevar the head man of the villages from where the befitting name of Kannan Devan Hill Plantation came into prominence as its was transformed into the finest tea plantation in the country.
Going by facets of planting in Munnar
Munnar with its breathtaking views and picturesque tourist location was transformed into a plantation destination with early efforts undertaken by the TURNER BROTHERS in 1877, neat Devikulam lake.
These enterprising planters tried their hand at a wide range of crops including coffee, chinchona, silsal and cardamom before they discovered that tea was the best suited for the Munnar and Anamalais.
The first tea sapling was sown by A. H. SHARP at PARVATHI a fifty-acre clearing right in the middle of forestland, which was the beginning of a flourishing tea plantation by 1888.
Today Munnar is a hill with more than 12000 hectares of lush, manicured tea fields many factories and evergreen forests and shoals hugging the mist shrouded hills, sheltering several highly endangered species of wildlife.
The very name munnar means three rivers, and they are three-mountain streams Muthirapuzha, Nallathanni, and Kundala, confluence at the heart of the Munnar Township that join river periyar along its long journey.
A trip to Munnar is a journey through picturesque surroundings feeling the fresh air complimented with a heady aroma of fresh-fired tea as you come close to the factories.
The activities offered around Munnar are endless. But to laze around in one of the bungalows is all that you want? Then Munnar beckons you…to its idyllic surroundings.
The Strobilanthus shrub that blooms only once in twelve years.
An auspicious time to be in Munnar is when Neelakurunji flowers. Believed to bring prosperity in its wake the flowers picturesquely carpet the entire hillsides with its mauve blossoms. The next flowering is in 2006.
ANAIMUDI PEAK at 2695 meters 8841 ft above MSL
The highest point south of the Himalayas towers majestically over the town, which once was the landmark for ships approaching the port of Kochi.
Adventurous trek from the base camp near Eravikulam National park is organized on request for the fittest after medical approval the overnight trek details will be informed as per the permission of forest department. Wildlife warden Munnar is the permitting authority.
ERAVIKULAM NATIONAL PARK, 7000ft above MSL
The zone that supports the largest population of NILGRI THAR in the world an endangered mountain goat known for the agility to maneuver steep mountain slopes in the world.
A former hunting preserve of the British planters, which was poached almost into extinction in the 1950S before an NGO stepped in and ensured the mountain habitat was declared a sanctuary. The park today exemplifies wildlife preservation at its best. Accessibility is only by foot after Rajmalay area. Visitors are not permitted into the core and the buffer zones.
The incredibly agile tahr is today the pride and the mascot of Munnar.
Incidentally, the view from the national park, at 7000 feet is breathtaking in its extent and diversity especially from the locally popular Directors Leap View Point.
Anaimudi peak falls on the southern side of the park.
RAJMALAY, which adjoins Eravilulam, is also the home of Niligri Thar upto, which you can access by vehicle that comes 4 KM before the Eravikulam park tourist zone.
CHINNAR WILDLIFE SANTUARY
The best wildlife sighting area near Munnar is chinnar, which is the haven, straddling the Kerala -TamilNadu border. As the road snakes it through the forest 20 km after Marayoor we will be sure to view elephants, gaur, spotted deer, sambar deer, giant grizzled squirrel and peacocks.
Also if we are lucky the legendary white bison of Manjapatti. Tiger and panther sighting are also reported every so often.
Run by the Kannan Devan Hill Plantation Company the museum traces the evolution of the tea industry in Munnar from 1880, which may be the first of its kind in the world.
The museum has several arrays of relics and artifacts and historic photographs and period furniture. Also see the tea processing and the delicate art of tea tasting which an educative experience.
PALLIVASAL HEAD WORKS DAM
This is the first dam built in Kerala for power generation, which is seen on the Kochi Madurai NH 49. The dam is named to honor Sir C P RAMASWAMY IYER, as he was the visionary in the making of major projects of this kind when he was the Divan of Travancore before the dawn of Indian Independence.
ATHUKAD, CHEEYAPARA, KALLAR AND VALARA WATERFALLS:
Located deep in a valley just off Kochi road, turning at pallivasal junction is one of Munnars major lures which becomes a roaring untamed cascade when the monsoon peaks in July- August.
Along the Kochi road is Cheeyapara falls, which plunge from over 500 ft, a popular bathing site, and Valara falls cascading into the thickly forested ravine below the road
Kallar waterfall is also on the Kochi road a good place to cool off.
CHURCH OF SOUTH INDIA
Built in 1890 the church rises tall and stately above the main road, its fortress -like exterior in cut rock masonry is a repository of Munnars colonial past.
THE Kannan Devan Hill Plantation Company have a tea and spice sale outlet which offer the finest of tea in many flavors They also showcase artifacts and strawberry preserves made by the school of disabled called SRISHTI promoted by the KDHP company.
The school of dsiabled making delicious preserves, natural dyed fabrics and hand made paper products can be visited.
MADUPATTY DAM [5510 ft above MSL]
The 160 feet dam has a vast reservoir picturesquely extending several km into the hills.
The boat cruise an exhilarating experience of occasional sighting of elephants, gaur and deer’s. The indo Swiss dairy farm and its pastures is also a beautiful land to visit.
KUNDALA OR SETHUPARVATHIPURAM DAM 5940 ft above MSL
This 70 ft arch dam entices visitors with serene ambience - a sky blue reservoir dotted with colorful rowboats and pedal boats, with peaceful cattle grazing peacefully on its banks against a backdrop of lush eucalyptus plantation.
MUNNAR is cradled in a valley hemmed in by hills. Many of its attractions are found within a radius of 20- 40 km from the town.
Apart from the places given above we have a few very interesting places of visits spread around the hills and dales of this beautiful land.
This idyllic hill station with exotic flora and fauna and the cool mountain air is enshrouded in the myth that Sita Devi depicted in the great Indian epic Ramayana has had bath in the lake, which is holy and pristine with the mineral currents and picturesque surroundings.
This viewpoint on the Thekkady - Munnar offers a breathtaking view of the Bison Valley, and the surrounding hills up to Periyar as the place was earlier quite abundant with Gaurs mistakenly called Bison.
POWER HOUSE WATERFALL
This waterfall on the way to Thekkady -Munnar road cascades downa steep rock 6500 feet high an ideal spot break with enchanting views of the wester mountain regions on the way from periyar.
This was one of the first areas brought under cultivation by the pioneers which is a valley sheltered by mountains adjoining Chinnakkanal. The lower and upper Suryanelly estates owned by the Harrison’s spread around this valley.
KOLLUKKUMALLAY TEA ESTATE
The highest tea plantation in the country located in precipitous terrain at 7900 ft above MSL just past the border of Tamil Nadu which produces some of the flavorsome teas in south India due to its altitude. The estate, a virtual Eyre tucked away amidst sky needling peaks is accessible only by jeep via Chinnakkanal - Suryanelly estate.
On the Munnar - Thekkady SH 17turn left when going from Munnar at powerhouse junction to chinnakanal just 10 minutes away and check into one of the few very good resorts and enjoy the panoramic view of Anayiragal reservoir and the surrounding mountains and tea plantations.
A picture perfect piece of land where the catchments area of Anayirangal Dam nurse the tea garden fringed by forest of thick vegetation on the Thekkady -Munnar road before Devicolam. Elephants are seen very often on the banks of the catchments area as we drive along the Thekkady - Munnar in this part of the road between Harrison’s Panniar estate and the Periakanal estate of Tata Tea which surrounds the a entire valley.
This beautiful land of tea gardens and cardmom will transcend you into sheer natural bliss as we drive up the Thekkady - Munnar road that is before Chinnakanal.
The huge shade trees found in the Panniar estate is a rare sight, as most of the tea gardens do not have such soft wood trees planted. The estate is owned by the Harrison’s plantation.
TOP STATION 6800 ft above MSL
An isolated outpost perched on precipitous ridge in Tamil Nadu 3 km from the interstate border offering stupendous views of the mountains and the plains of Tamil Nadu.
The pioneers’ path, which was, cleared by the British pioneers working up through this 7000ft 15 KM range or mountains from Bodinayakannur on the foothills of Tamil Nadu in 1880. Pack ponies and mules still plod up and down the steep tortures track bearing merchandise as they did 125 years ago.
Another interesting site is the abandoned ropeway that linked the foothills to the tea estates.
The Ariel ropeway is considered as an engineering marvel till date.
A steam rail engine is said to have been brought up this way in the early 20TH centuary, which was not operated due to technical reasons.
NYMAKKAD GAP 4500 ft above MSL
On the Munnar- Udumalpet route and before Tallayar Valley we pass through the Nymakad estate and the Nymakkad reserve offering breathtaking views of mountains, and Nymakkad waterfalls on the western side with manicured tea gardens where the colorfully dressed tea pickers intent on their work and you might even spot the odd gaur or elephant foraging in the nearby jungle.
At a high point after almost 10 km from Munnar we see Munnar valley on one side and Tallayar valley on the other which a breathtaking view.
TALLAYAR VALLEY 4000 ft above MSL
Just after Nymakad estate, Gundumallay estate and along the Thenmallay estate route which wind down to Udumalpet the Tallayar valley spreads into a land of many huge rock formations where the imposing background of oomamalai [dumb mountain] sheltering a valley of sheer greenery carpeted in tea gardens.
Tallayar River flows along the length of this blessed land that is colored by nature.
Huge red spathodias and beautiful flowering plants border the winding roads through the Vagavarai estate which head straight to marayoor and then to Chinnar.
Just off the Tallayar - Marayoor road the cascade is a delight to swim in its natural pool tucked away in total privacy.
It is a 7-step waterfall on to which we can trek at daytime.
Above the Lakkom falls we can go up to see the tribal areas, as they are friendly to offer very good forest honey and herbs which we can buy.
A picnic spot where you can spend time seeing the Tallayar River gushing through a very narrow rock cutting under a wooden bridge. The fiery sight of forces of nature makes you fell amazed.
The largest sandalwood plantation in kerala is at Marayoor along this route to udumalpet. And from udumalpet we can deviate and go up to valparai another area under tea plantation which a thickly wooded area in Tamil Nadu.
KOVILKADAVU AND PIOUS NAGAR
The Neolithic dolmans site just fewer than 5 km deviations from Marayoor is at this village on a huge rock formation.
The emerald paddy and sugar cane fields on the plains of Kovilkdavu are a typical Tamil village of charm. Here we get the finest of jaggery [sugarcane balls] in south India.
The largest shola forest type reserve in the world is just 20 KM from Marayoor that comes and joins Madupatty in Munnar accessed through the forest that offer beautiful views of the plains below.
Kanthaloor is village perched on an altitude of 4000 ft above MSL famous for apples and many vegetables which is between Marayoor and Mannavan Shola via kovilkadavu.
Apart from Nilgris- Munnar is the only hill resort in the south to offer the anglers delight.
The pristine lake and its surroundings offer angling for Rainbow Trouts to KDHP guests well off the beaten track from the Thekkady - Munnar road accessible better by jeep.
The finest Trout fishing is done at Gravel banks, which is tucked in a remote corner of Nymakad Estate along the Eravikulam Park after the tourist zone. Offered only to KDHP guests.
Prior permission is needed to enter both the angling areas from Secretary of angling association. Live bait is taboo Details of catches has to be recorded.
THE KUNDALE CLUB
Golfers will find this their paradise; set amidst sylvan surroundings the course maintained by Kundale club is a lush nine-hole course. Offered only to KDKP guests.
The club is placed at clearing on the way to Munnar- Kodiakanal.
The road almost abandoned after 10 km from the club, which is only accessible by highly rigid vehicles, which is short road to Kodai by almost 90 km, quite treacherous, but we are sure of some game.
Flanked by the Muthirapuzha river the club with its colonial ambience and old world charms is ensconced in sylvan surrounding which is the main meeting point of the local planters as it is near the Munnar township.
It offers a 9-hole golf course and 2-tennis court, an indoor squash court, well-stocked library, and a large collection of shikar trophies and other relics from its hoary past.